Friday, June 6, 2014

The Awakener

By Sarah Reichert

"I am not a teacher, but an awakener."-- Robert Frost

Tomorrow I’m visiting my hometown of Saratoga, Wyoming.  The reason for the trip is bittersweet.  My favorite teacher is retiring this year.  He’s being honored Saturday evening, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Mr. Patrick was my English and Humanities teacher, and my Speech and Debate coach for four years.  He, and his infamous red pen, served to strengthen my early writing by, often, not-so-gentle critiques. 

It stung to see the red lacerations on my returned work, but they were always fairly earned and were always balanced with kind words that guided me to be better as a writer and as a student.

He chopped away the nonsense, and build up my skills of self-critique, creating a writer who could see through her poor grammar to something superior.  He pushed me to be outstanding, stood up against my critics, and saw in me more than I ever could see in myself.  Only when I breezed through my college-level English courses, with nary a red mark, did I fully understand the gift he gave me with that crimson pen.

A mentor isn’t someone who coddles you.  They don’t let you get away with mediocrity.  They push; they bring tears, because they know that forming a masterpiece is painful work.  They balance the over-the-glasses-glares with pleased smiles, and that’s what molds the plain into extraordinary.  The best gift I can ever hope to give is to offer the same tough love to others, to be encouraging without indulging, and to push for levels of achievement and creativity that I know lie beyond the average in myself and others.   

Mr. Patrick will no longer walk the brick hallways of Saratoga High School.  He’s putting the red pen down and picking up leisurely books and garden shears.  I wish him a blessed life, filled with hammock naps and years of laughter.  To him, and all of the other brilliant teachers and mentors I offer my thanks and this:

"What is a teacher?  I'll tell you: it isn't someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows."-- Paulo Coelho

Do you have a Mentor?  How have they helped you most in your writing?


John Paul McKinney said...

Great post, Sarah. Mr. Patrick sounds special. I'm sure he'll be bursting with pride when he sees you again. Enjoy the great memories. JP

John Paul McKinney said...
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Sarah Sullivan said...

Sarah, I hope you sent this piece to Mr Patrick. What a gift that would be! How wonderful to have a high school teacher so focused on writing. I am so glad you returned for the retirement celebration. One of my biggest regrets in life is not thanking a wonderful high school teacher I had before he passed away, big mistake!! Good for you.

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